Biblical Literacy

Session 0: February 4, 2021

The Session Assignment [link]

How to proceed:

Each of our thirteen sessions has a webpage like this one. On it you'll see the link to the Session Assignment, a pdf document which will display in a new tab when you click on the link. I suggest you save this pdf on your computer so you can open it in your PDF viewer application (Preview on a Mac). When so opened, clicking on the links within the Session Assignment will open websites and documents in your default browser. If you wish to print a pdf file, I suggest you open it in your PDF viewer and print from there.

The Lead-in:

For our first "practice" meeting, after introducing ourselves, we'll do some Zoom preparation and practice. We'll cover: 1) updating to Zoom 5.5.0; 2) adding the black virtual background to your settings; 3) adding your photo and preferred name to your profile; 4) breakout rooms; and 5) screen sharing techniques.

Next, we'll pratice using breakout rooms for a discussion of the Terminology document followed by breakout reports and a class-wide discussion of the terminology items.

If we have further time before we wrap up at 11:30, we'll look at the timelines and try to come up with useful mnemonics for placing them in memory.

Each "Sessions" page will have a Lead-in like this one discussing what we'll be doing in class that week. In previous offerings of the course, SGM comments on the lead-in have been very helpful both to me and others. I'm still struggling with how to provide that feature and will keep you posted!

The Lead-out

Thanks for your patience today as we tried out the various Zoom features. It occurs to me that I forgot to ask you to check that you've updated your client to 5.5.0. If not, that might have been the cause of some of our problems.

On the question of useful commentary on our biblical passages, I should mention that the JSB annotations are usually very helpful, as should be Kugel. Erhman has written by far the most popular textbook on the New Testament [Amazon link]; a used copy of an earlier edition would be a reasonable purchase [Amazon link]. Erhman has also recently come out with a pricey textbook for the entire bible which I would also recommend [Amazon link].

Thanks to Susan for her enthsiastic endorsement of Christine Hayes's Yale course "Introduction to the Old Testament" (isn't that just like Yale: Old Testament, indeed!) [link to website]

As I mentioned, following Kugel's departure to Israel, Harvard's Hebrew Bible course has been taught by Shaye Cohen, a wonderful teacher and charming lecturer. Because Harvard had no interest in recording it, I did it myself. [link to website]. It was for this course that I created our interactive timelines. Both The Hebrew Bible and Prof. Cohen's other undergraduate course (The Hebrew Scriptures in Judaism and Christianity) are available on Harvard's iTunesU channel. At these website links you can see the lecture titles and read user reviews: [Hebrew Bible and Hebrew Scriptures].

Another likely source for commentary on New Testament subjects is Bart Ehrman's blog which contains hundreds of posts and probably one on the topic you're interested in [link to website]. The blog asks one to become a member with a charitable contribution but some material is publically available.

So, on to next week, our first real session. You'll find a link to the latest version of the session 1 Assignment Sheet link on the page for that session (use the menu on the home page called "Sessions").


  1. We're a small enough group not to need breakout rooms.
  2. The difficulty of screen sharing the slides I usually project on a screen is more than the value gained. I'll try to distribute the list of topics I intend to cover the day before class.